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2/3 for 20A: Sirisena skips vote

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Eight Opp. MPs back govt.

By Saman Indrajith

The 20th Amendment to the Constitution was passed in Parliament, last night, with 156 MPs voting for it; 65 MPs voted against it.

The government easily secured a two-thirds majority in the 225-member Legislature for the passage of the constitutional amendment, which will restore the executive powers which the 19th Amendment removed from the President.

All government members save one voted for the Bill, and several Opposition MPs joined them.

Differences that had cropped up among some of the constituent parties of the SLPP were ironed out at the last minute after President Gotabaya Rajapaksa met Ministers Wimal Weerawansa, Udaya Gammanpila and Vasudeva Nanayakakra, who had publicly voiced their opposition to the section for allowing dual citizens to enter Parliament.

They voted for the Bill including the dual citizenship provision after the President gave an undertaking that such provisions would not be there in the new Constitution to be framed.

SJB Anuradhapura District MPs Ishak Rahuman and MS Thowfeek, National List MP Dayana Gamage, Digamadulla MPs HMM Harees and Faizal Cassim, Badulla District MP A. Aravindh Kumar, SLMC Batticaloa District MP Naseer Ahamad and MNA Puttalam District MP AS Raheem voted with the government.

SLFP leader former President Maithripala Sirisena was a notable absentee in the House.

When the second reading stage vote was taken, the Bill received 156 votes for and 65 votes against.

The SJB, NPP, TNA and several other Opposition MPs from different independent parties voted against the Bill.

The final vote was taken last night at the end of the two-day debate on the Bill, which has been strongly opposed by opposition lawmakers but also by members of the Buddhist and catholic/Christian clergy, and civil society groups.

During the third reading of the Bill (committee stage) the government introduced several amendments, some in keeping with the determination of the Supreme Court and others suggested by some government members.

Chief Opposition Whip Lakshman Kiriella asked for a division on the clause on permitting duel citizens to enter parliament, and when that particular clause was put to vote it received 157 votes for and 64 votes against.

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Covid-19 vaccination programme: MPs not in priority group; President, armed forces chiefs in ‘third category’ 

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By Shamindra Ferdinando

State Minister for Primary Health Care, Epidemics and COVID Disease Control, Dr. Sudarshini Fernandopulle yesterday (25) said that members of Parliament were not among those categorised as priority groups expected to be vaccinated against the Covid-19 pandemic.

Dr. Fernandopulle said so in response to The Island query whether parliamentarians would receive the vaccine scheduled to be delivered by India this week. Asked to explain, Dr. Fernandopulle said that health workers, armed forces and law enforcement personnel engaged in Covid-19 prevention operations would be given priority.

“Lawmakers haven’t been listed under priority groups. However, some members may get the vaccine if they are accommodated in the over 60 years category and those suffering from diabetes, heart disease, cancer et al,” the State minister said.

In addition to State Minister Dayasiri Jayasekera, several lawmakers, representing both the government and the Opposition had been afflicted over the past several weeks. SLPP lawmaker Wasantha Yapa Bandara (Kandy district) is the latest victim. Health minister Pavitradevi Wanniarachchi was among over half a dozen lawmakers tested positive.

Army Commander General Shavendra Silva told Derana yesterday morning Sri Lanka would receive approximately 500,000 to 600,000 doses from India. Responding to a spate of questions from Derana anchor Sanka Amarjith, Gen. Silva explained the measures taken by the government to ensure a smooth vaccination programme. The Army Chief who also functions as the Chief of Defence Staff revealed India had paid for the consignment obtained from the UK.

Later in the day, The Island sought an explanation from the Army Chief regarding the President, Service Commanders, Secretary Defence given the vaccination along with frontline health workers et al, the celebrated battlefield commander said: “Will be in third priority group.”

Asked whether the student population would be accommodated at an early stage of the vaccination programme, Dr. Fernandopulle said that those under 18 years of age, pregnant and lactating mothers wouldn’t be included at all as such groups hadn’t been subjected to trials. Education Secretary Prof. Kapila Perera wasn’t available for comment.

Dr. Fernandopulle emphasized the pivotal importance of following health guidelines strictly in spite of the launch of the vaccination programme. “We shouldn’t lower our guard under any circumstances,” Dr. Fernandopulle said, urging the population to be mindful of those unable to receive the vaccination due to no fault of theirs. As those under 18 years of age had been left out of the vaccination programme, a substantial section of the population would be denied the protection, the State Minister said.

Sri Lanka is also expected to procure vaccines from China and Russia in addition to the doses from India. Health Secretary Maj. Gen. Sanjeewa Munasinghe wasn’t available for comment.

Sri Lanka launches the vaccination programme with the total number of positive cases nearing 60,000 with nearly 50,000 recoveries. The government recently re-opened the Bandaranaike International Airport (BIA) following a pilot programme that brought over 1,200 Ukrainians in dozen flights through the Mattala International Airport.

Dr. Fernandopulle said that the government was ready to launch the vaccination programme as soon as the first consignment arrived from India.

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Tennis balls filled with drugs thrown into Kandakadu Covid-19 treatment centre

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By Norman Palihawadane

Two tennis balls filled with drugs had been thrown into the Covid-19 treatment centre at Kandakadu, Police Spokesperson DIG Ajith Rohana said.

The contraband was found on Saturday by the Army officers attached to the facility.

DIG Rohana said the two tennis balls containing cannabis, heroin and tobacco, had been handed over to the Welikanda Police.

A special investigation has been launched into the incident, the Police Spokesperson said. Such incidents had been previously reported from Welikada, Negombo and other prisons, but it was the first time contraband containing narcotics had been thrown into a Covid-19 treatment centre, he added.

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All cargo clearances at Colombo port now through electronic payments

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The Sri Lanka Ports Authority (SLPA) has introduced a system where payment for imports could be made via the Internet. This allows port users to make payments from their homes or offices to clear goods from the Port of Colombo.

The SLPA has said in a media statement that the new special facility will enable port users to make their port payments easily without hassle.

At present, all terminals of the Port of Colombo are run according to a strategic crisis management plan.

 

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